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Y. Zhang, A. Noy 2017

Two new studies in Science demonstrate potentially groundbreaking applications for carbon nanotubes: filtering water even better than nature itself, and harnessing energy from ocean waves.

Why it matters: Until now, efforts to capture energy from things that are constantly moving in nature (e.g. waves or the human body) and convert it into electricity has been limited to tiny circuits with small currents of electricity. Carbon nanotubes could allow natural sources of energy to be efficiently tapped because their atomic bonds are so strong and can be stretched and twisted into bigger structures.

What they're made of: carbon engineered at the nanoscale level. The nanotubes are 10,000 times finer than a human hair. The bonding between the carbon atoms is also extraordinarily strong – which is why researchers have tested them for so many different applications. Scientists had high hopes, for instance, that carbon nanotubes could create an elevator to space, until studies in 2016 showed that such a massive structure would likely create too many critical weak points.

The new research:

  1. In one study, researchers compared the water-filtering potential of different sized carbon nanotubes against biological proteins — the carbon nanotubes effectively filtered water six times better than the proteins."The results could pave the way to new water filtration systems, at a time when demands for fresh water pose a global threat to sustainable development," the researchers wrote.
  2. A second set of experiments has equally important implications for self-powered devices. Researchers twisted nanosheets of carbon so tightly they formed coils that, like a spring, were able to store and transfer energy. They found the twisted nanotubes' were able to harvest energy from ocean waves (a 10-cm-long device had an average output power of 1.79 mW). They also showed it could convert mechanical energy into electricity in self-powered devices (like a shirt that has carbon nanotubes sewn into it and uses the natural process of breathing to continuously convert mechanical energy into electricity).

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Health: Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat.
  2. World: Greece tightens coronavirus restrictions as Europe cases spike.
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Education: Surge threatens to shut classrooms down again.
  5. Technology: Fully at-home rapid COVID test to move forward.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."

Trump's legacy is shaped by his narrow interests

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

President Trump's policy legacy is as much defined by what he's ignored as by what he's involved himself in.

The big picture: Over the past four years, Trump has interested himself in only a slim slice of the government he leads. Outside of trade, immigration, a personal war against the "Deep State" and the hot foreign policy issue of the moment, Trump has left many of his Cabinet secretaries to work without interruption, let alone direction.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Technology

AI and automation are creating a hybrid workforce

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AI and automation are receiving a boost during the coronavirus pandemic that in the short term is creating a new hybrid workforce rather than destroying jobs outright.

The big picture: While the forces of automation and AI will eliminate some jobs and create some new ones, the vast majority will remain but be dramatically changed. The challenge for employers will be ensuring workforces are ready for the effects of technology.